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Updated: 15 hours 29 min ago

Canada’s Parliament Considers Bill Limiting Horse Slaughter

19 hours 46 min ago

The most recent ban on equine inspections by USDA meat inspectors has moved the horse slaughter debate up to Canada’s House of Commons.

A Member of Parliament (MP) from southeastern British Columbia hopes that a final hour of debate next month can persuade the country’s federal lawmakers to pass his bill limiting slaughter only to those horses raised as feed animals with complete medical records. MP Alex Atamanenko’s legislation (C-571) is a private member’s bill, meaning that the government did not request it.

Atamanenko withdrew an earlier bill that sought a total ban on horse slaughter in Canada and then substituted C-571 in hopes that a more limited ban might attract enough support. He is a member of the minority New Democratic Party and a retired school teacher.

Atamanenko wants to make it more difficult for Canada’s four federally inspected equine processors to do business by imposing requirements he says are designed to keep drugs out of the food chain.

Overall his bill would cut horse slaughter in Canada by 50 percent, according to Atamanenko.

With up to 100,000 live horses from the United States being taken over the border every year for eventual slaughter by one of the four facilities, Canada’s horse meat sales now top $83 million a year.

Most of the horse meat Canada processes goes to the European Union, but not all. Horse meat can be found on fine restaurant menus and in meat shops in its big eastern cities, including Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal and Quebec City. Canada exports horse meat to France, Russia, Kazakhstan, China and Italy.

The European Commission’s Food and Veterinary Office has expressed concerns about the lack of identification documents for horses originating in the U.S. Throughout Europe’s horse fraud scandals, where cheaper horse meat was secretly substituted for more expensive beef, health officials have said that food safety has not been at risk.

No USDA-inspected horse slaughter has occurred in the U.S. since 2007. The method used to ban it has been budget restrictions imposed on USDA. Those were lifted for 2012 and 2013, but the ban extending it to Sept. 30, 2014, was reinstated last Jan. 17.

Salmonella on Poultry a ‘Common Enemy’ for Both U.S. and Denmark

19 hours 47 min ago

The United States and Denmark are at war. Not against each other, but against a common enemy — Salmonella on poultry products.

Recently, there has been attention in the media about Denmark’s attempts to eradicate Salmonella from its poultry supply.

Like Denmark, the U.S. poultry industry and the federal government recognize that Salmonella is a very serious issue and we use the best science, data and technologies available to protect public health.

Like Denmark, the U.S. poultry industry and federal agencies are waging this war on multiple fronts by taking a comprehensive approach to food safety, attacking Salmonella in breeder flocks, poultry farms, chicken feed and processing facilities. There are many battle tactics commonly deployed in each country to wage our respective wars on Salmonella, including vaccination programs, feeding probiotics, heat treatment of feed, biosecurity measures and rodent and insect control on the farms.

But there are different challenges here in the U.S. and in Denmark, too. An important caveat is that not all Salmonella are pathogenic to humans, and the methods of measuring Salmonella prevalence cannot be trusted as equivalent between countries.

Denmark, roughly the size of the state of Maryland, raises and processes about 100 million chickens per year. In the U.S., Georgia alone processes 100 million chickens in about 20 days.

So, while we’re fighting the same enemy, we’re fighting against different-sized armies. Here, we’re fighting against potential Salmonella in an army of about 8.6 billion chickens; Denmark is fighting against potential Salmonella in an army of about 100 million.

We’re also feeding 308 million more people.

That is perspective, not an excuse.

Another difference is that we do not eradicate billions of live chickens because they might carry Salmonella, a naturally occurring microorganism that is inherent to the bird. What will make Salmonella disappear is science, research and breaking the chain at every stage of production from the breeder farm to the processing plant.

U.S. chicken companies recognize that constant vigilance and continuous improvement in food safety is a requirement of doing business. The risk of doing any less is too great to consumers and to the company’s reputation. Each company has stringent food safety and quality assurance programs that complement federal government inspection.

It all starts even before the egg. Healthy breeder flocks lead to healthy chicks — measures are taken to prevent diseases from passing from hen to chick and to ensure that natural antibodies are passed on which help keep the birds healthy. At the hatchery, strict sanitation measures and appropriate vaccinations ensure the chicks are off to a healthy start.

U.S. chicken producers also focus heavily on the further reduction of Salmonella at processing facilities by using safe and effective interventions at critical control points.

At facilities that process chickens for meat, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) requires that poultry establishments must meet Salmonella performance standards as a means of verifying that production systems are effective in controlling any and all contamination. FSIS inspection personnel conduct Salmonella testing in poultry establishments to verify compliance with Salmonella standards.

Since 1996, meat and poultry processors have been operating under Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points (HACCP) plans, which have provided a scientific method of identifying and preventing food safety hazards and managing risk so that key actions can be taken to reduce or eliminate these risks.

Chicken-processing facilities use a variety of intervention strategies at their critical control points that include the use of FDA-approved organic sprays and rinses that kill or reduce the growth of potential foodborne pathogens, biosecurity measures, zero tolerance for visible fecal material, making sure the carcass is properly chilled, and strict sanitation procedures, to name a few.

Microbiological tests for pathogens, including Salmonella and Campylobacter, are then conducted by companies and federal laboratories. These tests help ensure that food safety systems such as HACCP are working properly and they verify compliance with federal Salmonella standards.

The data tell us we’re making progress: From 2001 to 2010 — the latest 10-year period for which data are available —  outbreaks related to E. coli, Salmonella and other pathogens decreased by more than 40 percent. In the past five years, Salmonella on whole chickens has decreased by 55 percent. According to the latest FSIS Quarterly Progress Report (July 1 through Sept. 30, 2013), 0.7 percent of young chicken carcasses in large plants tested positive for Salmonella — a fraction of the FSIS performance standard of 7.5 percent.

The incidence of human salmonellosis (from all sources) in the U.S. in 2012 was 16.42 cases per 100,000 people. Denmark’s rate was 21.4 cases per 100,000 for the same year.

No matter if you are in Copenhagen or Columbus, safe handling and fully cooking poultry to 165 degrees F (74 degrees C) is what fully eradicates Salmonella.

Given that Americans eat 160 million servings of chicken every day, the vast majority of consumers are cooking and handling chicken properly and having a safe experience.

But we want that experience to be safe each and every time, which is why the chicken industry is constantly seeking continuous improvement to make our products even safer.

For example, we know most consumers eat chicken parts rather than whole chickens. We are collectively and non-competitively exploring all options to reduce contamination on chicken parts in order to provide the safest product possible to our consumers. This something the industry is proactively working to address, so when a performance standard for chicken parts is put in place by FSIS, the industry can be meeting or exceeding the standard, as we currently do for whole carcasses.

Secondly, USDA needs to move forward to modernize its poultry inspection system that hasn’t changed since the days of Dwight Eisenhower. Under this proposal, the amount of food safety-related tasks performed by USDA inspectors would significantly increase, preventing more than 5,200 foodborne illnesses every year, according to USDA risk assessments.

We all play an important role in ensuring food safety for our families. All chicken is safe when properly cooked and handled, and U.S. chicken producers and processors are continually seeking methods to make them even safer before leaving the plant, like our Danish counterparts.

Not only is it the right thing to do and makes good business sense, but because our families eat the same chicken as you and yours.

Merger of Meat Industry Groups Aims to Achieve ‘One Voice’

19 hours 47 min ago

The 108-year-old American Meat Institute is close to a merger with the two-year-old North American Meat Association. Among other roles, the new organization will direct the meat industry’s approach to food safety.

What gives?

James Marsden, Regent’s Distinguished Professor of Food Safety at Kansas State University, answered that question Monday in his regular Meatingplace column.

He predicted that the new association resulting from the merger will represent a “new beginning” for the meat industry with a culture that is “progressive and consumer oriented.” Others in the meat industry are talking about speaking with “one voice.”

Recent consolidation of meat industry organizations began more than two years ago when the North American Meat Processors Association (NAMP) and the National Meat Association (NMA) began a courtship that ended in a marriage. The North American Meat Association (NAMA) became the new name of that merged organization and it is now in a plan for a merger with the American Meat Institute (AMI).

AMI is the meat industry’s big stick. Formed in 1906 by an industry set back on its heels by the publication of “The Jungle” by Upton Sinclair, AMI was formed as Congress was passing the first Federal Meat Inspection Act.

NAMA’s predecessor organizations owe their beginnings to World War II’s price controls and rationing. That was a problem for Chicago dealers of value-added meats. They came together under the umbrella of the National Association of Hotel and Restaurant Meat Purveyors. This alliance cut through the rationing schemes and found ways to sell meat to hotels and restaurants at a fair price. The group evolved first into the National Association of Meat Purveyors and finally into the North American Meat Processors Association to reflect that its members were coming from Canada and Mexico, in addition to the United States.

NAMP merged two years ago with the National Meat Association (NMA), which also dates back to World War II, first under the name of the Western States Meat Packers Association. A second predecessor to NMA was the Pacific Coast Meat Association. Those two merged in 1982 as the Western States Meat Association. NMA then came about in 1996 by the merger of Western States and the Mountain/Plains Meat Association.

The North American Meat Association formed by the 2012 merger of NMA and NAMPA, and its top executives are now CEO Barry Carpenter and executive director Phil Kimball. Carpenter is a former top USDA executive, and Kimball is an expert in agricultural exports and association management who started out as a Capitol Hill staffer on agricultural appropriations.

Carpenter and Kimball have about 15 people on their full-time executive staffs. Budget information was not readily available. NAMA maintains these four offices: Washington, D.C.; Oakland, CA; Ottawa, and Mexico City.

Many see NAMA as mostly representative of small- and mid-sized meat processors, but, with companies joining multiple associations, that might be a stereotype.

Discussions between the two organizations got under way in September 2013, and NAMA’s board of directors voted on March 21 to merge with AMI under an agreement and plan that will take effect on Jan. 1, 2015.

“The NAMA Board feels strongly that the members will be best served by the merger,” said Tony Gahn, Jr., NAMA’s co-president.

“The time has come for the industry to speak with one voice,” added Mike Hesse, NAMA’s other co-president.  The temporary co-presidency stems from the 2012 merger.

A change in leadership with the departure of AMI’s longest-running president and chief executive made the merger talks possible. J. Patrick Boyle, who led the group from 1990 to 2013, retired at year-end. He was a major factor in AMI’s power and influence. He did not come cheaply, however. According to the nonprofit organization’s IRS Form 990 report, Boyle’s total compensation for 2012 topped $1.14 million. AMI Executive Vice President James Hodges is now serving as the interim president and CEO.

Boyle left AMI with a membership that includes 95 percent of the nation’s beef, pork, lamb, and veal processors and 70 percent of the turkey production. The group’s IRS Form 990 report shows AMI’s annual revenues at about $10 million. It’s 33 professional staffers work out of Connecticut Avenue offices in Washington, D.C., just four blocks from NAMP.

Food Poisoning Suspected in Southern Illinois, Two Hospitalized

Tue, 04/15/2014 - 4:20pm
A possible outbreak of food poisoning earlier this month sickened several people and hospitalized two in Mt. Vernon, IL, according to a news report published Tuesday. The sicknesses occurred around April 6, but additional details were sketchy. One victim reportedly told local media outlets that he had become ill after attending a brunch at the Holiday Inn, where all the food was prepared by a local restaurant. Officials with the Jefferson County Health Department in Mt. Vernon said that they began receiving reports of illness on April 9. The department’s director of nursing, Becky Brooks, told the press that about 22 people were part of the investigation, including some who had not become ill.

“We have various names we’re investigating. A lot of the investigations have led to a dead end, but we have to pursue everything,” Brooks said. Test results had not yet been received, she added.

The investigation was complicated by the fact that, by the time local health officials heard about the problem, food items that may have been the source were no longer available.

Ackee Products Can Be Seized or Refused Entry for Toxin Levels, Says FDA

Tue, 04/15/2014 - 1:03am

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is issuing final guidance on enforcement criteria for ackee products containing the toxin hypoglycin A.

Ackee is a fruit native to West Africa but is also found in Central and South America, many Caribbean countries, and Southern Florida. Canned, frozen and other ackee products are marketed in the U.S., largely to people from Caribbean cultures, and most of the products are imported from tropical countries such as Jamaica, Belize and Haiti.

In recent years, there has been interest by a processor in Florida to market ackee products in interstate commerce.

The ackee fruit naturally contains the toxin hypoglycin A, which drops to negligible levels in the edible portion of the fruit when it is fully ripe. But when the product is improperly processed, concentrations can rise above 100 parts per million (ppm) and pose a health risk.

So FDA’s final Compliance Policy Guide now recommends seizure or import refusal of canned, frozen and other ackee products that contain greater than 100 ppm of hypoglycin A.

FDA’s district offices may detain, without physical examination, all ackee products offered for import, except for those from firms that are identified on a “Green List.” The firms on the Green List have demonstrated to FDA that they have food safety controls in place to ensure that only properly ripened ackees, without seeds or rind, are included in finished products.

Interested parties can comment on the guidance beginning April 15.

Keep Food Safety Out of AIB, Kansas State Proposal

Tue, 04/15/2014 - 1:02am

(This was posted April 10, 2014, at barfblog.com and is reposted here by permission.)

A former colleague at Kansas State University asked me yesterday if I would deliver my annual talk with summer public health students despite being unceremoniously dumped last year.

I said, “Sure, I’ll always talk with students: they shouldn’t have to suffer from administration incompetence.” (I pre-record the talk, send a bunch of background material and then Skype in for discussion; it works for most of the world, just not Kansas administrators).

But I also had to wonder when Kansas State announced they were proposing a $60-million partnership with AIB International (that’s the American Institute of Baking, also in Manhattan, KS) to create a Global Center for Grain-Based Foods.

What marketing geniuses come up with these names?

“We are looking at our shared expertise to help enable the grain-based food industry, both from a learning/technical application, and from a food safety perspective,” said Andre Biane, president and CEO of AIB International.

Having AIB and food safety in the same sentence should shock anyone.

AIB is the third-party auditor that approved Salmonella-tainted peanut paste that killed nine and sickened 600, gave DeCoster egg operations a “superior” rating and “recognition of achievement” in June 2010, just as thousands of Americans began barfing from Salmonella in DeCoster eggs, and a big thumbs-up to Veggie Booty before Salmonella started making people sick.

As has been documented, although AIB considered the Peanut Corporation of America plant “Superior,” Nestlé twice inspected PCA plants and chose not to take on PCA as a supplier because it didn’t meet Nestlé’s food-safety standards, according to Nestlé’s audit reports in 2002 and 2006.

I also wonder when the KState administration goes on about its Australian ties and clearly knows nothing about the culture here, even with two former KState profs sitting here.

Keep believing your own press releases: it’s what universities are good at.

Audits and inspections are never enough: A critique to enhance food safety

30.aug.12

Food Control

D.A. Powell, S. Erdozain, C. Dodd, R. Costa, K. Morley, B.J. Chapman

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0956713512004409?v=s5

Abstract

Internal and external food safety audits are conducted to assess the safety and quality of food, including on-farm production, manufacturing practices, sanitation and hygiene. Some auditors are direct stakeholders that are employed by food establishments to conduct internal audits, while other auditors may represent the interests of a second-party purchaser or a third-party auditing agency. Some buyers conduct their own audits or additional testing, while some buyers trust the results of third-party audits or inspections. Third-party auditors, however, use various food safety audit standards and most do not have a vested interest in the products being sold. Audits are conducted under a proprietary standard, while food safety inspections are generally conducted within a legal framework. There have been many foodborne illness outbreaks linked to food processors that have passed third-party audits and inspections, raising questions about the utility of both. Supporters argue third-party audits are a way to ensure food safety in an era of dwindling economic resources. Critics contend that while external audits and inspections can be a valuable tool to help ensure safe food, such activities represent only a snapshot in time. This paper identifies limitations of food safety inspections and audits and provides recommendations for strengthening the system, based on developing a strong food safety culture, including risk-based verification steps, throughout the food safety system.

FDA Allows Irradiation in Crustaceans for Foodborne Pathogen Control

Tue, 04/15/2014 - 1:01am

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration will allow irradiation on crab, shrimp, lobster, crayfish and prawns to control foodborne pathogens and extend shelf life.

After a safety assessment considered potential toxicity, the effect of irradiation on nutrients, and potential microbiological risk, the agency decided to amend current food additive regulations to allow “the safe use of ionizing radiation on crustaceans.”

The change applies to raw, frozen, cooked, partially cooked, shelled, or dried crustaceans, or cooked, or ready-to-cook, crustaceans processed with spices or small amounts of other food ingredients.

At the maximum permitted dose of 6.0 kiloGray (kGy), this new use of ionizing radiation will reduce, but not entirely eliminate, the number of pathogenic microorganisms – including Listeria, Vibrio and E. coli – in or on crustaceans.

“Irradiation is not a substitute for proper food-handling practices,” FDA pointed out. “Crustaceans treated with ionizing radiation must be stored, handled, and cooked in the same way as non-irradiated foods.”

But Food & Water Watch’s executive director, Wenonah Hauter, said that the decision “continues to show how inadequate the FDA food inspection system is, especially for imported foods” and will allow other countries “to continue to raise their seafood products in filthy and unsanitary factory fish farms since irradiation will be used as the ‘magic bullet’ to make the products safe to eat from microbiological contaminants.”

FDA has previously allowed irradiation in other foods such as poultry, meat, molluscan shellfish, iceberg lettuce and fresh spinach. The move to add crustaceans to the list is in response to a petition filed by the National Fisheries Institute (NFI) 13 years ago.

“Ionizing radiation is a proven and effective food safety technology that can now be incorporated into an already robust modern system that ensures the wholesomeness of crustaceans,” said Gavin Gibbons, NFI’s vice president for communications. “This will be another tool, in addition to existing government regulations, that companies can use to ensure the safety of their seafood. FDA has made clear that use of irradiating technology will supplement, not replace, stringent food safety standards that have led seafood to be among the safest of foods.”

The agency requires that companies identify irradiated foods on packaging, but not on multi-ingredient foods or irradiated food served in restaurants.

Recall of Processed Egg Products Expanded, FSIS Releases Distribution List

Mon, 04/14/2014 - 10:51pm

Nutriom LLC of Lacey, WA, is recalling an additional 82,884 pounds of processed egg products that were produced on dates not included in the original Feb. 15 recall announcement from the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS).

Monday’s announcement from FSIS included a 56-page distribution list of retail outlets in 46 states which may or may not have received the processed egg products manufactured by Nutriom.

The processed egg products were initially recalled in February because FSIS officials said they may be contaminated with Salmonella. The agency issued a public health alert on March 26 removing the products from commerce after the company declined to expand that initial recall. However, Nutriom agreed the following week to a partial recall of six production lots in response to the FSIS request.

Monday’s FSIS announcement stated that, “As part of the investigation in the detention and seizure of product identified in the March 26 public health alert, FSIS identified and verified USDA Agricultural Marketing Service Salmonella sample results that validated the public health safety of four of the lots included in the public health alert. As such, FSIS has determined these products do not need to be removed from commerce. With public health as the focus, Nutriom LLC has agreed to voluntarily recall the remaining product identified in the March 26, 2014 public health alert.”

Neither the agency nor the company have received reports of illnesses due to consumption of these products.

Monday’s recall expansion includes the products listed below, along with the rest of the April 14 FSIS announcement:

The following products were shipped to co-packers for incorporation into consumer-size packages:

  • 3,884-lb. super sack of “OvaEasy Plain Whole Egg” with the lot code “H0613-B”
  • 1,989-lb. super sack of “OvaEasy Plain Whole Egg” with the lot code “I0413-A”
  • 958-lb. super sack of “OvaEasy Plain Whole Egg” with the lot code “I0413-A”
  • 4,422-lb. super sack of “OvaEasy Plain Whole Egg” with the lot code “L1713-A”

The following products were packaged in consumer-sized packages:

  • 1.75-lb. packs of “OvaEasy Plain Whole Egg” with lot code 2814-A and the Julian dates “0374,” “0384,” “2683” and “2693”
  • 66-gram spray bottles of “Bak-Klene Egg Wash” with the lot code “L1013A”
  • 1.17-lb. packs of “OvaEasy UGRA, Reduced Cholesterol” with the Julian dates “3228,” “3229,” “3230,” “3231,” “3281,” “3282,” “3283,” “3284,” “3337,” “3338,” “3339” and “3340”
  • 4.5-oz. cans of “OvaEasy Whole Plain Egg” with the Julian date “2883”
  • 571-gram packs of “Vitovo Low Fat” with the Julian date “3193”
  • 1.1-lb. bags of “OvaEasy Boil-in-Bag UGR, Heat & Serve (HS)” with the Julian dates “3188”
  • 2-oz. packs of “OvaEasy Plain Whole Egg” with the Julian dates “0074,” “0084,” “0094,” “0354,” “0364,” “0374,” “2243,” “2253,” “3463,” “3473” and “3483”
  • 66-gram spray bottles of “Panera Egg Wash” with the Julian dates “0144,” “0154,” “0164,” “0174,” “0214,” “0224,” “0234,” “0244,” “0284,” “0294,” “0304” and “0314”
  • 2-oz. pack of “Wise Company, Wise Blend” with the Julian date “0943”

On Feb. 15, 2014, the company recalled 226,710 pounds of processed egg products. To read the recall release, click here. The following products listed below were included in the initial recall.

The following products were shipped to co-packers for incorporation into consumer-size packages:

  • 1,383-lb. super sack of “OvaEasy Boil-in-Bag Egg Mix, Butter Flavor” with the lot code “C0513-A”
  • 2,540-lb. super sack of “OvaEasy Plain Whole Egg” with the lot code “B1913-A”
  • 2,409-lb. super sack of “OvaEasy Plain Whole Egg” with the lot code “B1913-B”
  • 4,712-lb. super sack of “OvaEasy Plain Whole Egg” with the lot code “E0713-A,B”
  • 1,265-lb. super sack of “OvaEasy Boil-in-Bag, Heat and Serve” with the lot code “F1813-A”
  • 4,155-lb. super sack of “OvaEasy Plain Whole Egg” with the lot code “I1113-A”
  • 6,132-lb. super sack of “OvaEasy Plain Whole Egg, Cage Free” with the lot code “J2913-A”
  • 9,345-lb. super sack of “OvaEasy Plain Whole Egg, Cage Free” with the lot code “A1414-A”

The following products were packaged in consumer-sized packages:

  • 3.06-lb. bags of “OvaEasy Boil-in-Bag Egg Mix, Butter Flavor” with the Julian dates “3074” and “3075”
  • 2.34-lb. bags of “OvaEasy Boil-in-Bag, Reduced Cholesterol” with the Julian dates “3122,” “3123,” “3124,” “3127,” “3128” and “3129”
  • 4.5-oz. cans of “OvaEasy Plain Whole Egg” with the Julian date “2903,” “1343” and “2893”
  • 4-oz. bags of “OvaEasy Plain Whole Egg” with the Julian dates “0853” and “0863”
  • 4.5-oz. bags of “OvaEasy Plain Whole Egg” with the Julian dates “0853,” “0863” and “0873”
  • 1.75-lb. packs of “OvaEasy Plain Whole Egg” with the Julian dates “0813,” “1083,”  “1093,” “1433,” “1443,” “1573,” “1723,” “2063,” “2163,” “2173,” “2183” “2243,” “2253,” “2183,” “2533,” “2543,” “2553,” “2563,” “2623,” “2633,”“2673,” “2683,” “2693” and “2703”
  • 3.2-oz. bags of “Wise Company, Wise Blend” with the Julian dates “0953” and “0993”
  • 2-oz. packs of “OvaEasy Plain Whole Egg” with the Julian dates “2073,” “2063,” “2163,” “2603,” “2613” “2903,” “2913,” “2953,” “2963,” “3173” and “3183”
  • 3.2-oz. packs of “Wise Company, Wise Blend” with the Julian dates “1133,” “1143,” “1153,” “1163” and “1353”
  • 1.17-lb. bags of “OvaEasy UGRA Boil-in-Bag, Reduced Cholesterol” with the Julian dates “3129,” “3130” and “3137”
  • 1.75-lb. packs of “OvaEasy” with the Julian dates “2163,” “2173,” “2183” and “2243”
  • 4.5-oz. packs of “OvaEasy Plain Whole Egg” with the Julian date “2563”
  • 1.1-lb. packs of “OvaEasy UGR H&S” with the Julian dates “3173,” “3174,” “3175,” “3177,” “3178,” “3179,” “3180,” “3181,” “3182,” “3183,” “3194,” “3195,” “3196,” “3197,” “3198” and “3199”
  • 1.1-lb. packs of “G0213-A UGR H&S” with the Julian dates “3186,” “3187,” “3189,” “3190” and “3191”
  • 128-gram packs of “Egg Crystal, Sea Salt and Pepper” with the Julian date “3033”
  • 128-gram packs of “Egg Crystal, Sausage and Herb” with the Julian date “3043”
  • 1.17-lb. packs of “OvaEasy UGR-A Reduced Cholesterol” with the Julian dates “3141,” “3142,” “3148,” “3149” and “3150”
  • 3-oz. packs of “eFoods Plain Whole Egg” with the Julian dates of “3173” and “3183”

On March 26, 2014, FSIS and the company did not reach agreement pertaining to products subject to expansion of the initial recall. FSIS acted within the scope of its authority and responsibility and issued a public health alert. To read the public health alert, click here.

The dried egg products in the recall expansion were produced from January 2013 through January 2014 and bear the establishment number “INSPECTED EGG PRODUCTS PLANT 21493G” inside the USDA Mark of Inspection. These products were shipped nationwide and to U.S. military installations in the United States and abroad, and to Mexico.

Consumption of food contaminated with Salmonella can cause salmonellosis, one of the most common bacterial foodborne illnesses. The most common symptoms of salmonellosis are diarrhea, abdominal cramps and fever within 12 to 72 hours after eating the contaminated product. The illness usually lasts four to seven days. Most people recover without treatment. In some persons, however, the diarrhea may be so severe that the patient needs to be hospitalized. Older adults, infants and persons with weakened immune systems are more likely to develop a severe illness. Individuals concerned about an illness should contact their health care provider.

FSIS inspects egg products under the Egg Products Inspection Act. FDA typically takes jurisdiction of egg products after they leave the egg facility if they are incorporated into FDA-regulated products. In this case, USDA is leading the recall rather than FDA, because the products are in consumer packages with an identifiable USDA Mark of Inspection, and FSIS had jurisdiction over the product when the contamination occurred. FSIS and FDA are continuing to work together to ensure food safety, and the management of this recall is such an example.

Consumers with questions regarding the recall can contact Julie Cuffee, Customer Service Representative, at (360) 413-7269, ext. 101.

Abady Cat Food Recalled for Possible Salmonella Contamination

Mon, 04/14/2014 - 12:57pm

The Robert Abady Dog Food Co. LLC of Poughkeepsie, NY, is recalling its 2-lb., 5-lb. and 15-lb. boxes of “Abady Highest Quality Maintenance & Growth Formula for Cats” because they have the potential to be contaminated with Salmonella.

The recalled boxes of “Highest Quality Maintenance & Growth Formula for Cats” were distributed nationwide in retail stores and through mail orders.

The product comes in a 2-lb., 5-lb. and 15-lb. corrugated boxes with plastic liners marked with lot # 14029/21 stamped on the right-side top of the box.

No illnesses have been reported to date in connection with this problem.

The potential for contamination was noted after routine testing by the company revealed the presence of Salmonella in some 2-lb., 5-lb. & 15-lb. boxes of “Abady Highest Quality Cat Maintenance & Growth Formula for Cats.”

Production of the product has been suspended while FDA and the company continue their investigation as to the source of the problem.

Consumers who have purchased 2-lb., 5-lb. and 15-lb. boxes of  ”Abady Highest Quality Maintenance & Growth Formula for Cats” are urged to return them to the place of purchase for a full refund. Consumers with questions may contact the company at 1-845-473-1900, Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. EDT.

Salmonella is an organism which can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in young children, frail or elderly people, and others with weakened immune systems. Healthy persons infected with Salmonella often experience fever, diarrhea (which may be bloody), nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain. In rare circumstances, infection with Salmonella can result in the organism getting into the bloodstream and producing more severe illnesses such as arterial infections (e.g., infected aneurysms), endocarditis and arthritis.

Europe’s Hepatitis A Outbreak Expands Well Beyond Italy

Mon, 04/14/2014 - 1:04am

An outbreak with at least 240 confirmed cases of the Hepatitis A virus originally thought to be confined to Italy is making a much larger footprint in Europe.

There have been 240 cases of individuals who have not visited Italy associated with the outbreak in France, Germany, Ireland, Norway, the Netherlands, Sweden and the United Kingdom.  Overall, there have been 1,315 Hepatitis A cases since Jan. 1, 2013, in the 11 European Union countries with cases.

The likely source of the Hepatitis A outbreak was originally thought to be frozen berries, according to the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA). More recently, however, attention has focused on the potential for cross-contamination in food production equipment or even the possibility that the now-widespread strain was previously undetected.

EFSA is leading the trace-back investigation in cooperation with EU countries, the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control, the European Commission and the Federal Institute for Risk Assessment.

All 1,315 Hepatitis A cases could be part of the outbreak. The 240 confirmed cases share the same strain sequence and viral genome junction.

The pathogen has a long incubation period – the time between exposure and the onset of illness – and EFSA says whatever food vehicle is involved has a long shelf life and a complex processing and distribution chain. This combination makes it likely that additional cases will be reported and the number of countries with cases may also expand.

The investigation is using the EU’s Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed. The risk to human health and the geographic spread of ongoing transmission are both seen as increasing.

Heat treatment of frozen berries and HAV vaccinations for those who work with them are among the recommendations EU health officials are making at this time.

“A whole genome sequencing approach needs to be considered to examine viral isolates from different points in time during the outbreak in order to confirm the hypothesis of a single outbreak,” EFSA reports.

A new risk assessment is expected to follow soon.

Tribes Still Troubled by FDA’s ‘Inadequate’ Consultation Policy

Mon, 04/14/2014 - 1:03am

With less than 30 days notice, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) finally set a date for face-to-face consultation with American Indian tribes and pueblos on its proposed rules under the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA).

On March 27, FDA Deputy Commissioner for Foods and Veterinary Medicine Michael Taylor sent a letter to tribal and pueblo leaders informing them of a consultation to be held on Wednesday, April 23, from 8:30 a.m. to 11 a.m. MDT at the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center in Albuquerque, NM.

FDA’s stated agenda includes a discussion of seven proposed FSMA rules and its intent to create an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the Produce Safety Rule. Additionally, FDA officials indicated that they would answer questions and hear feedback on all seven proposed rules.

Concerns over Notice and Agenda for April Meeting

Over the past 10 months, tribal representatives had asked FDA for face-to-face consultation on FSMA rules. But now that FDA has finally set a date, some representatives are dismayed by the meeting’s short notice as well as the expansive amount of material agency officials propose to cover in a single meeting.

“A two-and-a-half-hour meeting in one location to digest and consult on hundreds of pages of rules is wholly inadequate,” said Janie Simms Hipp, director of the University of Arkansas School of Law Indigenous Food and Agriculture Initiative, and former senior adviser for tribal relations to Secretary of Agriculture Thomas Vilsack.

A-dae Romero, an attorney specializing in food and agricultural law and a member of the Cochiti Pueblo, also expressed concern over the content and length of the meeting. She noted that, according to FDA’s stated agenda, a substantial amount of the two-and-a-half-hour meeting is devoted to background and explanations of the proposed rules, leaving little time for feedback and questions.

“The amount of information that FDA proposes to cover with over 24 different tribes in New Mexico (and possibly other tribes from other states) is appalling,” said Romero.

In addition to the April 23 meeting in New Mexico, FDA plans to conduct a consultation with the Navajo Nation on April 22, FDA spokesperson Catherine McDermott told Food Safety News. Doyle Forrestal from Region VIII of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services confirmed that a consultation meeting is scheduled for April 22 in Window Rock, AZ, at the Navajo Museum.

Implementation and Formal Consultation Issues

Romero and Hipp emphasized that tribes are deeply troubled by FDA’s apparent reluctance to comply with formal consultation requirements.

Executive Order (EO) 13175 requires federal agencies to consult with tribes when it promulgates regulations with tribal implications. And the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), FDA’s parent agency, has a consultation policy to implement EO 13175, which states: “Before any action is taken that will significantly affect Indian Tribes it is the HHS policy to the extent practicable and permitted by law, consultation with Indian Tribes will occur.”

Despite EO 13175 and HHS’s consultation policy, FDA has only held one formal FSMA consultation thus far, which was a two-hour webinar held last November.

“Meaningful consultation will mean different things to different tribes and their members, but face-to-face meetings with tribes are certainly a critical component of formal consultation,” Hipp said.

FDA has also held several phone calls, webinars and meetings since developing FSMA rules. But both Romero and Hipp noted that these meetings do not constitute formal consultation.

“FDA is a subsidiary of HHS. So is its sister agency, the Indian Health Service (IHS), which has a very good template for formal Tribal Consultation. But, for some unknown reason, FDA is choosing not to follow a well-established Tribal Consultation Policy of HHS,” Romero said.

In addition to the lack of face-to-face consultation, Hipp pointed out that FDA did not attempt to consult with tribes during the development stage of its proposed rules.

“What would have been more appropriate is for FDA to have planned consultation immediately after FSMA was enacted and coordinate a comprehensive approach to meeting their obligations. They didn’t do so, and we are now at a juncture where ‘hurry up and check the box’ is their approach,” she said.

FDA Warning Letters: Six Addressed to Seafood Facilities

Mon, 04/14/2014 - 1:02am

The bulk of the nine warning letters released last week by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration were addressed to seafood processing facilities for violations of seafood Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) regulation.

HACCP failures at Portland Fish Exchange of Portland, ME, led FDA to declare the company’s seafood products – including histamine-producing seafood such as mackerel, bluefish and tuna – adulterated because “they have been prepared, packed, or held under insanitary conditions whereby they may have been rendered injurious to health.”

FDA cited the Whole Foods Market Denver Distribution Center of Aurora, CO, for not having a HACCP plan for scombroid/histamine-forming species fish such as tuna, sardines, anchovy, mackerel, bluefish, mahi-mahi and wahoo to control the food safety hazard of histamine.

Josephson’s Smokehouse of Astoria, OR, Britto Seafoods Exports of Tamil Nadu, India, Seorak Clean Food in Sokcho, Republic of Korea, and Royal Foods of Bangkok, Thailand, were all cited for inadequate responses to HACCP failures noted by FDA’s inspectional observations.

In addition, there were some misbranding issues with certain products from Josephson’s Smokehouse, FDA stated. The Hot Smoked Wine-Maple is fabricated from two or more ingredients, but the labeling fails to bear a complete list of all of the ingredients. The Hot Smoked Garlic Pepper Salmon, Hot Smoked Wine-Maple Salmon, Hot Smoked Spring Chinook Salmon and Hot Smoked Peppered Atlantic Salmon products failed to bear nutrition information on the package.

Wagner Dairy Operations of Middleton, WI, and Jernigan Dairy of Fallon, NV, received warning letters after selling cows for slaughter that FDA officials considered adulterated because of unacceptable levels of desfuroylceftiofur and penicillin residues in their tissues.

FDA also came down on Dewmar International for including melatonin in its “Lean Slow Motion…Potion” beverage product. Because the product is “represented for use as conventional foods, and accordingly are not dietary supplements,” the melatonin is considered an unapproved food additive and the agency is “not aware of any basis” to conclude that melatonin is General Recognized As Safe (GRAS) for use in conventional foods.

Furthermore, FDA considers the products misbranded because the products are represented for use as conventional foods, but below the Nutrition Facts panel, their labels state: “DIETARY SUPPLEMENT.”

In each letter, FDA requested that the facilities and farms provide written responses detailing steps taken to bring the firms into compliance with food safety laws and regulations, to correct violations cited in the letters, and to prevent their recurrence.

More Battling Than Policy Changes Mark 2014 State Raw-Milk Action

Mon, 04/14/2014 - 1:01am

There are still multiple endings that could be put on the raw-milk story told during the 2014 state legislative season.

One popular theory is that the foodies and libertarians have joined hands in a great coalition to pass bills to legalize unpasteurized milk across the land. These theorists point to 40 bills introduced in 23 statehouses during the current legislative season. Another possibility is that not all that much has changed in 2014 except for the fact that raw milk advocates are now more visibly split in their ranks on the direction their movement should take.

After Wisconsin’s “raw milk outlaw” Vernon Hershberger was found not guilty of operating without various licenses at the infamous Baraboo trial last year, his vocal opposition to GOP state Sen. Glenn Grothman’s bill to make licensed raw milk sales legal in Wisconsin became symbolic of the split.

All states are equal, but not when it comes to raw milk. Wisconsin is America’s dairy state, with around $30 billion of pasteurized milk sales. After Hershberger came out against Grothman’s bill for raw milk sales that involved some licensing and regulation, the bill went nowhere and is now officially dead.

Before the 2010 elections, the Wisconsin Legislature did make raw milk sales legal. However, Gov. Jim Doyle vetoed the bill and Grothman has since failed to get another raw milk bill passed.

And the fact is the 2014 legislative season is already over in 19 states that either do not usually meet in election years or that have already adjourned. Another seven states join that list in just a few days. Except for the half-dozen states with year-round legislative bodies, most of the rest are shut down by mid-May.

It is unlikely there will be any addition to the handful of states that permit raw milk to be sold at retail. The fights are mostly over regulatory tweaks and policies on farm sales and so-called cow-share schemes.

With raw milk bills like these going back and forth, the tightening versus liberalization battle is more like the trench warfare of World War 1. When every legislative season is over, there are usually some slight changes back and forth, but not much in the way of wholesale changes.

The two sides have their lines of debate down pat. Opponents tell how time and transportation of raw milk raise the risks that the harmful bacteria contained in unpasteurized milk pose real dangers to consumers, especially children. They have data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and horror stories on videotape told by raw milk victims and their grieving parents.

Advocates of raw milk talk about “food freedom” and do not lack for testimonials from folks who drank raw milk all their lives and offer theories about how pasteurization kills bacteria in milk, but also eliminates other content that fights everything from allergies to autism. They say consumers should have a choice and dairy farmers should have an option for selling raw milk in the public square.

In addition to occasionally appearing before criminal juries, raw milk advocates have also proven effective at playing defense. During the current legislative session, they turned out thousand of supporters in Illinois against a bill to ban the sale and distribution of raw milk. Illinois currently bans retail sales of raw milk, but allows farms to sell to the public.

State Rep. Daniel J. Burke (D-Chicago) opted not to even try to move the bill to ban the farm sales out of committee after raw milk advocates buried members with phone calls and emails opposing it. Burke said he was persuaded after receiving “thousands of communications” not to interfere with raw milk because so many people find it beneficial.

At the same time, opponents of raw milk just won a major battle in the unexpected state of California. Raw milk losing in California is unexpected because unpasteurized milk is legally sold at retail in the Golden State. Organic Pastures (OP) is the largest commercial raw milk dairy in the state, and its founder, Mark McAfee, is perhaps the country’s most effective raw milk advocate.

But Assembly Bill 2505, the “Home Dairy Farm” bill introduced by Assemblywoman Mariko Yamada (D-Davis) just went down in flames in Sacramento. AB 2505 would have given California consumers the option of buying “fresh-from-the udder” raw milk from small farms that would be exempt from standards such as those that apply to OP and other commercial raw milk dairies in the state.

But opponents quickly said the risks of such a scheme were greater than any benefit or “economic freedom.” Those who want fresh-from-the-udder milk do have that option in California, according to Assemblyman Brian Dahle (R-Bieber).

“If you want to drink unpasteurized milk, buy a cow, milk the cow and drink the milk,” he said. “We don’t like to get into what people do at home — that’s your business — but when you start selling it, that’s our business.”

AB 2505, which died in committee, was limited to home dairies with up to three lactating cows or 15 goats. It was opposed by a coalition of farm, dairy and health groups.

About a month from now, both sides will climb out of their trenches and see if there are any battle lines that need to be redrawn. After that, there will be another legislative season in 2015.

Clostridium Perfringens Apparent Cause of Michigan Outbreak

Sun, 04/13/2014 - 11:32pm

The Muskegon County Department of Health reports that preliminary results from the Michigan Department of Community Health have shown the presence of a common foodborne illness-causing bacteria called Clostridium perfringens in a sample tested from Bonicki’s Restaurant and Sports Bistro.

Public health officials had reported receiving at least six calls from local customers who fell ill between April 3 and April 6.

Clostridium perfringens is found throughout the environment in soils, sediment, and the intestines of animals and humans. The bacteria typically cause illness when foods are served after improper storage or held at inadequate storage temperatures.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention considers Clostridium Perfringens one of the most common causes of foodborne illness in the United States and estimates that it is the cause of nearly a million cases of foodborne illness each year.

Bonicki’s General Manager Karen Mead responded to the news with a prepared statement: “We, the Bonicki’s family, apologize for the recent event,” she said. “We would like to thank the community, our loyal customers and the Muskegon County health department.”

Publisher’s Platform: Time to Vaccinate Restaurant Workers Against Hepatitis A

Sun, 04/13/2014 - 11:48am

In the past few days, restaurants from a Papa John’s in North Carolina to the La Fontana suburban New York restaurant to a Moose Jaw bar, are issuing hepatitis A warnings due to an ill worker putting customers at risk.

Hardly a month passes without a warning from a health department somewhere that an infected food handler is the source of yet another potential hepatitis A outbreak. Absent vaccinations of food handlers, combined with an effective and rigorous hand-washing policy, there will continue to be more hepatitis A outbreaks. It is time for health departments across the country to require vaccinations of food-service workers, especially those who serve the very young and the elderly.

Hepatitis A is a communicable disease that spreads from person-to-person. It is spread almost exclusively through fecal-oral contact, generally from person-to-person, or via contaminated food or water. Hepatitis A is the only foodborne illness that is vaccine-preventable. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), since the inception of the vaccine, rates of infection have declined 92 percent.

CDC estimate that 83,000 cases of hepatitis A occur in the United States every year, and that many of these cases are related to food-borne transmission. In 1999, more than 10,000 people were hospitalized due to hepatitis A infections, and 83 people died. In 2003, 650 people became sickened, four died, and nearly 10,000 people got IG (immunoglobulin) shots after eating at a Pennsylvania restaurant. Not only do customers get sick, but also businesses lose customers or some simply go out of business.

Although CDC has not yet called for mandatory vaccination of food-service workers, it has repeatedly pointed out that the consumption of worker-contaminated food is a major cause of foodborne illness in the U.S.

Hepatitis A continues to be one of the most frequently reported, vaccine-preventable diseases in the U.S., despite FDA approval of hepatitis A vaccine in 1995. Widespread vaccination of appropriate susceptible populations would substantially lower disease incidence and potentially eliminate indigenous transmission of hepatitis A infections. Vaccinations cost about $50. The major economic reason that these preventive shots have not been used is because of the high turnover rate of food-service employees. Eating out becomes a whole lot less of a gamble if all food-service workers faced the same requirement.

According to CDC, the costs associated with hepatitis A are substantial. Between 11 percent and 22 percent of persons who have hepatitis A are hospitalized. Adults who become ill lose an average of 27 days of work. Health departments incur substantial costs in providing post-exposure prophylaxis to an average of 11 contacts per case. Average costs (direct and indirect) of hepatitis A range from $1,817 to $2,459 per case for adults and from $433 to $1,492 per case for children younger than 18. In 1989, the estimated annual direct and indirect costs of hepatitis A in the U.S. were more than $200 million, equivalent to more than $300 million in 1997 dollars.  A new CDC report shows that, in 2010, slightly more than 10 percent of people between the ages of 19 and 49 got a hepatitis A shot.

Vaccinating an employee make sense.  It is moral to protect customers from an illness that can cause serious illness and death. Vaccines also protect the business from the multi-million-dollar fallout that can come if people become ill or if thousands are forced to stand in line to be vaccinated to prevent a more serious problem.

Letter From the Editor: The Bogus Honey Story Won’t Die

Sun, 04/13/2014 - 2:00am

Foodborne disease outbreaks and recalls usually dictate the foods we cover. We usually follow the pathogens without any other discriminating factor. So, if we are focused on beef, or spinach, or sprouts, or cantaloupe, or whatever, we just follow the story.

Of course, there are always exceptions to rules. Food Safety News has been fortunate in the past five years to be associated with some extraordinary journalists. We were able, mostly in 2011, to bring on two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter Andrew Schneider to work on some special projects for us. His job was to poke into some food dangers not related to bacteria and viruses.

In his time with us, Andrew turned his spotlight on arsenic finding its way into juices and rice, nanoparticles in food, and, oh yes, honey. His series of investigative reports on honey remains very much alive on Food Safety News. They’ve attracted thousands upon thousands of readers and generated hundreds of comments. It continues to this day.

The most popular of these reports was his story on the testing of honey purchased from retail stores all over the country: Tests Show Most Store Honey Isn’t Honey: Ultra-filtering Removes Pollen, Hides Honey Origins. We call it the “bogus honey story,” and I caught up with Andrew about it because, this past week, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) came out with new “draft guidance” for the honey industry on “Proper Labeling of Honey and Honey Products.”

His Pulitzers for investigative reports on organ transplants and the medical airworthiness of airline pilots are now in the journalism history books, but Schneider acknowledges that his article on bogus honey for Food Safety News is “the story that won’t die.”

He still gets from six to 15 calls every month from consumers, packagers, and state and federal investigators about the quality of the honey they are dealing with. The crux of the issue is that when the pollen, those microscopic particles from deep inside the flower, are totally removed, there’s no way to tell if the “honey” came from a legitimate and safe source.

Pollen is removed from honey by a process known as ultra-filtering, in which honey is heated, sometimes watered down, and then forced through micro-filters with high pressure. Once the pollen is removed, it opens the door to illegal dumping of honey measured by the tonnage. For years, the Chinese have illegally dumped into the U.S. market millions of dollars worth of their “honey,” which is often exposed to illegal antibiotics. They have a harder time getting their “laundered” honey into places such as Europe because many world food-safety authorities say that ultra-filtered honey missing its pollen is no longer honey.

Those countries insist on being able to determine the origin of the honey being sold within their national boundaries.

This is probably where you expect me to say that, with the new draft guidance, we are shortly going to know where our honey comes from. But, sadly, FDA has no intention of closing the bogus honey loophole. Schneider tells me that his sources who investigate these shipments say that “adulterated Chinese honey is still flowing into U.S. ports.” Nothing is going to change.

Indeed, the main problem is that FDA simply will not define honey as containing pollen and, therefore, make it traceable to its country of origin. Instead, the agency goes off about how it accepts the “common usage” of the term “honey,” which is “a thick, sweet, syrupy substance that bees make as food from the nectar of flowers and store in honeycombs.”

FDA’s “guidance” says that honey is a “single ingredient food” and the floral source need not be declared. In a nutshell, FDA is drawing its line at labeling issues and is not going to get involved in whether pollen is missing. In the unlikely event that some test results pop up showing positives for antibiotic residues of chloramphenicol or fluoroquinolones, FDA promises it will do its enforcement thing.

The same people Schneider talks to down in the trenches say that those who trade in adulterated Chinese honey have powerful, well-financed lobbyists to keep FDA away from doing anything effective about laundered honey. They’ve been successful in their mission for a long time, too. Back on March 8, 2006, the American Beekeeping Federation tried to get FDA to adopt the world standard for establishing the identity of honey by filing a petition. It was formally rejected by the current administration on Oct. 5, 2011, which suggested – we kid you not – that the same goal could be achieved with “honesty and fair dealing.”

In the month after that petition was denied, Food Safety News went on a shopping spree buying honey at retail all over the country to acquire the honey samples Schneider required for his independent testing story – when he found that three out of four jars or bottles of honey were missing their pollen. All those involved in Chinese honey laundering are probably still laughing over the line about “honesty and fair dealing.” Ultra-filtered Chinese honey that may be adulterated with illegal antibiotics and heavy metals is blindly accepted here in the U.S., but it’s blocked by less-trusting countries around the world.

Safe, pure honey is important to those countries. But, apparently, we are not among them.

P.S. Andrew Schneider first came to my attention about a decade ago when he was working for the late, great Seattle Post-Intelligencer writing about the asbestos poisoning of the little mining town of Libby, MT. Along with P-I editor David McCumber, he captured that amazing story in the book “An Air That Kills.”

Hepatitis A Vaccines Urged for Nyack La Fontana Patrons

Sat, 04/12/2014 - 12:17pm

The Rockland County Department of Health has confirmed a case of acute Hepatitis A in a food handler at the La Fontana restaurant in Nyack, NY. Patrons and other employees may have been exposed to the Hepatitis A virus between March 19 and April 1, 2014.

The health department will offer free Hepatitis A vaccine to restaurant patrons and employees starting Saturday, April 12, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Sunday, April 13, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., and Monday, April 14, from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. at the Rockland County Fire Training Center, 35 Firemen’s Memorial Dr., in Pomona.

The Rockland County Department of Health is recommending that all people who ate at the restaurant on March 29, March 30, and April 1, 2014, receive Hepatitis A vaccine. Patrons who ate at the restaurant between March 19 and March 28 will not benefit from vaccination. In order for the vaccine to be most effective, people who have been exposed to Hepatitis A should be vaccinated within 14 days. The earlier the vaccine is given, the more effective it is in preventing the disease. In general, the vaccine is 80-90 percent effective.

Restaurant patrons may also receive vaccine at their medical provider’s office. People who were exposed but have already received two doses of Hepatitis A vaccine sometime in their life do not need another shot; all others should be vaccinated.

Hepatitis A is a liver disease caused by a virus. It is spread from person to person by putting something in the mouth (even though it might look clean) that has been contaminated with traces of fecal matter from an infected person. Most people recover within a few weeks with bed rest and by avoiding alcoholic beverages.

There are no special medicines or antibiotics that can be used to treat a person once the symptoms appear. Symptoms include jaundice (yellowing of eyes and skin), fatigue, abdominal pain, nausea and diarrhea. While some people who have chronic liver disease or a weakened immune system could experience more severe illness and require hospitalization, Hepatitis A is very rarely fatal (fewer than 1 percent of cases).

Europe Reports 1,300 Hepatitis A Cases Since 2013

Sat, 04/12/2014 - 2:09am

More than 1,300 Hepatitis A cases have been reported in 11 countries by the European Food Safety Authority since January 2013, with 240 confirmed cases related to an ongoing outbreak.

Initially the outbreak was associated with people who had traveled to Italy. However seven countires- France, Germany, Ireland, Norway, the Netherlands, Sweden and the United Kingdom- have reported cases of infections in people who had not traveled to Italy.

Preliminary investigations identified frozen berries as the most likely source of infection. Other hypotheses, such as cross contamination in the food production environment or that the outbreak strain is already widespread but previously undetected, have now also been taken into account.

EFSA is leading a trace-back investigation, with the support of affected Member States, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, the European Commission and the Federal Institute for risk assessment (Bfr).

Consumers Warned About Toxins in Anchovies and Sardines From Two CA Counties

Fri, 04/11/2014 - 3:51pm

The California Department of Public Health is advising consumers not to eat commercially or recreationally caught anchovies or sardines, or the internal organs of commercially or recreationally caught crab, from Monterey and Santa Cruz counties.

According to CDPH, dangerous levels of domoic acid have been detected in some of these species and could be present in others. The concern is that the toxin resides in the digestive tracks of anchovies and sardines, but these fish are not usually gutted before they’re eaten.

CDPH is working with commercial fishermen in the area to ensure that recently caught sardines, anchovies and crab were not distributed into the human food supply.

The health advisory is in addition to the April 4 warning not to eat recreationally harvested bivalve shellfish (such as mussels, clams or whole scallops) from Monterey or Santa Cruz counties due to dangerous levels of domoic acid in mussel samples.

But that warning does not apply to commercially sold clams, mussels, scallops or oysters from approved sources. State law permits only state-certified commercial shellfish harvesters or dealers to sell these products. Shellfish sold by certified harvesters and dealers are subject to frequent mandatory testing to monitor for toxins.

CDPH continues to collect bivalve shellfish, fin fish and crab samples from the area to monitor the level of domoic acid in seafood. There have no reported illnesses associated with this event.

Symptoms of domoic acid poisoning can occur within 30 minutes to 24 hours after eating toxic seafood. In mild cases, symptoms may include vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal cramps, headache and dizziness. These symptoms disappear within several days. In severe cases, the victim may experience trouble breathing, confusion, cardiovascular instability, seizures, excessive bronchial secretions, permanent loss of short-term memory, coma or death.

If you ate any of the affected product(s) and experienced illness as a result, please contact your healthcare provider and/or notify your local health department so tests can be conducted on either food or human samples and results can be reported to the appropriate public health agencies.

Dinner Rolls Likely Source of Salmonella Illnesses Linked to Minnesota Restaurant

Fri, 04/11/2014 - 3:48pm

Minnesota health officials have identified dinner rolls as the likely source of bacteria which sickened dozens of Old Country Buffet diners in Maple Grove, MN, in January.

The rolls were likely cross-contaminated with Salmonella Enteritidis from raw chicken used in the restaurant, Minnesota Department of Health spokesman Doug Schultz reportedly said.

The state’s joint investigation with Hennepin County found that 36 people were probably sickened by the bacteria after eating at the restaurant between Jan. 11 and Feb. 11, with most of those who became ill eating there on Jan. 25. One person was hospitalized.

Since the outbreak occurred, the restaurant staff has been retrained about food safety and inspections have increased.

Salmonella is most often linked to undercooked eggs and poultry. Salmonella infections cause fever, stomach cramps and diarrhea.